The Watcher recalls the X-Man called Wolverine clashing with Hand assassins in Japan. Here Wolverine and Mariko Yashida never married. She turned him away at the altar, thanks to the manipulation of Mastermind, leaving an embittered Logan more alone than he had ever been. Then the Watcher describes a reality where things went differently…
At the altar, Mariko warns Logan what marrying into her family means. He wouldn’t have it any other way, he promises her. That’s why he got her the ring he slips on her finger. It isn’t exactly Shinto tradition, but he wants her to wear it. He raises both their hands, telling his X-Men friends to take a look. They are finally looking at a happily married man and wife. Smiling, Mariko asks him to contain himself, while his friends shout their congratulations.
Later at the reception, Nightcrawler and Colossus stare doubtfully at the sushi served to them. Logan tells them to eat up. Plenty more where that came from. They make their excuses that they are full. Oh, he gets it! Saving room for the fish eyes in squid ink, he tells them. Good thinking! Now, if they’ll excuse him, he has to see a lady about a drink…
He turns to Kitty, who is trying some Sake. He tells her to lay off. It stunts growth, look at him. She apologizes, then tells him how thrilled she is for him and Mariko. So, how does he think, Mariko is going to like living in America? He tells her that it’s the other way round. He is resigning from the X-Men and staying with his wife. There is a lot of family business to attend to. But if they ever need him, he’ll come running. Kitty cries, telling him she’ll miss him. He gives her a kiss on the cheek, telling her he will miss her too.
Castle Yashida, Miyago prefecture. The next morning:
The X-Men leave and Logan feels like watching part of his life is gone. Mariko asks if he regrets the path he has chosen but he assures her she is looking at the happiest man on the planet and kisses her. Gently, she reprimands him that their love must wait. They must salvage Clan Yashda’s honor before they take time for themselves. Time enough for honor tomorrow, he tells her. Today’s just for them.
The clan’s honor had been compromised by Mariko’ father Shingen, who in an effort to expand their influence became involved with the underworld. Wolverine slew Shingen in combat, but the damage had already been done. The Yakuza profited far too much from its Yashida association to let them slip away.
The old Yakuza leadership has been ousted and a new unknown oyabun is leading the organization. So Wolverine looks for that leader, trolling the hidden dens of the Yakuza to gather information.
In a bathhouse, he grabs one Yakuza member while the others flee and demands the identity of the oyabun The man announces he’d rather die. After more threats, he admits he knows nothing. The new oyabun conceals his identity and nobody knows him. Wolverine believes him, because he hears the same story everywhere.
Logan informs Mariko that their opponent is faceless and has managed to gain complete control of the Yakuza. They can’t fight an enemy they can’t find! Mariko suggests they shall invite him. They know one of his soldiers. Kenuchio Harada aka the Silver Samurai! He is still her half brother. If family loyalty holds any meaning to him, he will give them what they need.
And so, she summons her brother, the Silver Samurai, and asks him for information. She does not wish the clan to be enmeshed in Yazuka affairs, she tells him. They want to be free of Yakuza influence, but the new oyabun is unknown and unreachable. She asks for his name. Where to find him.
She asks much, he tells her gravely. To betray the oyabun would mean his life. But some things are worth more than his life. He has become a man without honor. If he must give her the information, she must let him return to the clan and restore his honor. He takes off his helmet and bows before his sister, asking her to let him come home. He pledges his loyalty and Mariko accepts.
She asks Logan to bow as well in acceptance. When he refuses, Harada draws his sword and Logan then unsheathes his claws. Mariko orders them to stop squabbling and save their animosity for the oyabun. Harada agrees. He does not wish to make a widow of his half-sister.
What, they just kiss and make up? Logan protests and reminds Mariko Harada turned his back on her and the whole clan. She’s nuts!
He is of Yashida blood, Mariko replies, and has given his word. It is enough. It is a thing of honor, Harada smirks. Logan wouldn’t understand. He hands him the calling card of the oyabun. No, Wolverine chokes, when he sees the name.
Sometime later in a dark office, the oyabun is informed that the one he expected is on the grounds. He calls his Hand warriors.
Logan tries to sneak into the castle to be attacked by the Hand ninjas. Unimpressed, he fights them and, when he kills them, the corpses dry up into ashes. He reins in his berserker rage and climbs up the wall to the lighted office window where he is already expected by the mysterious oyabun, the New York crimelord Wilson Fisk, known as the Kingpin of crime.
Wolverine informs him he needs a new welcoming committee. They were hardly Fingers, the Kingpin shrugs, much less Hand. Good help is hard to find. But Wolverine didn’t come here to discuss his employment practices. Let’s get down to business… He offers a cigar, which Logan accepts.
Fisk remarks he had help finding him, namely Harada whose betrayal he anticipated. A man who deserts his own family knows no loyalty. His organization is better off without him.
Shall they start with the obvious question? How did a foreigner like Fisk gain control of the Yakuza? There are two universal languages: money and violence. He controls the Yakuza because he has the power to do so. The fact he is American is moot.
Why Japan? Wolverine asks. Fisk explains that the United States is a tottering giant. Its economy will bottom out within the next decade. Japan is the future. This is where the next world power will arise. The Yakuza already commands substantial government influence. An ambitious man could cultivate that influence, strengthen it. This country is ripe for a power behind the throne. In five years, he will rule Japan.
Wolverine tells him to leave Yashida out of it. Fisk curtly refuses. Yashida is an influential family. He needs the clan’s wealth and manpower. Then they’ve got a war! Wolverine warns him. A costly one. No, Fisk informs him. A short one, like him. Now get out!
There is indeed war all over Japan. Forces loyal to Yashida, led by Wolverine, the Silver Samurai and Mariko, clash with the Kingpin-controlled Yakuza. Yashida forces resist tenaciously, but in vain. Vastly outnumbered, there can be only one outcome and, finally, the three leaders find themselves cornered and about to be eliminated by a horde of Ninja. Before they are attacked, the Ninja are burned to dust, courtesy of Shiro Yoshida aka Sunfire, Mariko’s cousin.
He explains he’s been out of the country on government assignments and only just returned. He came as soon as news of the war reached him. He offers his strength to Mariko for as long as she needs it.
Three weeks later:
The Kingpin receives a message from their forces in Tokyo. They have been defeated again. The addition of Sunfire has shifted the balance of power. The Kingpin admits that Wolverine was right. This prolonged struggle is proving costly. They could even lose this way. He must resort to the final option. He writes a note to be taken to Wolverine…
Soon, Logan announces to the others that the Kingpin is offering a chance to end the war if he meets him in combat. If Logan wins, Yashida goes free; if the Kingpin wins, he gains unopposed control of the clan. Mariko doesn’t trust the Kingpin and the Samurai agrees. Sunfire, though, does not. The Kingpin is not Logan’s equal. They can be prepared for treachery. Harada suddenly changes his tune, announcing this is their opportunity to regain the clan’s honor and sovereignty without further loss. Logan agrees and tells the messenger to tell Fisk it’s his funeral.
Soon the Kingpin arrives at Castle Yashida, dressed in Japanese battle armor and accompanied by ninja guardians. Fisk demands Sunfire leave. He will not fight with a superhuman present. The power he possesses presents too much opportunity for deceit. Wolverine protests that Shiro is honorable but Sunfire decides to leave, despite the insult.
Both combatants draw their katanas, in Logan’s case the honor sword of Clan Yashida. As they begin to trade blows, the Kingpin mocks that he knows Logan’s kind, always striving for an unattainable goal. Why bother, he will never be one of these people. He will always be a gaijin!
Logan retorts that, when he married Mariko, he married into Yashida. No matter where he came from, this is his family and he won’t let the Kingpin take it away.
He draws first blood. The Kingpin hits back, threatening he will take everything he has, one way or the other! He is about to land the killing blow, but Logan manages to disarm him. Well done, the Kingpin commends him, but the effort will gain him nothing. Now! he orders the Silver Samurai, who stabs Mariko in the back.
Wolverine hurries to her side and attacks Harada in a berserker rage. He raises the sword and makes the blade come down next to Harada’s head. Does he spare him? Harada asks. Wolverine replies he just decided the honor sword is too good for him. He kills him with his claws instead.
The Kingpin enters his limousine. A fitting end for a man with so little honor, he observes. He was useful, but he is not sorry to see such an unscrupulous sort erased. His death does however pose a minor difficulty.
Wolverine warns him he is going to have difficulty staying alive. They are not finished! Of course they are, Fisk replies. He’s already obtained what he wants. Wolverine just doesn’t realize it. The contest was immaterial. Either way, he was going to control Yashida. If the Kingpin had won, Mariko would have honored their agreement. But since Wolverine triumphed, it was necessary to eliminate Mariko. Harada was a mole, taking his orders from Fisk. With Mariko dead, he would have ascended to the clan’s leadership, and again the Kingpin wins.
Since Logan killed him, though, there is a void to be filled. Wolverine could stake a claim but a tradition-obsessed family like Yashida wouldn’t follow a gaijin – now he has to find another puppet. As he said, a minor difficulty. Make no mistake, he will rule this clan. And once he has cemented his position, his fist order of business will be Wolverine’s death. He is too dangerous to be left alive. He suggests he make the best of the time he still has as the car starts.
A moment later, the car explodes in a fiery blast as one of the ninjas reveals himself to be a disguised Sunfire. Shiro explains he was too late to prevent Mariko’s death, but not so late he could nor avenge it.
As Logan cradles Mariko’s corpse, Shiro admits he too grieves. He grieves even more for the loss Logan feels. Logan thanks him and asks what happens to the clan. With the Kingpin gone, the Yakuza will splinter. Yashida will win its freedom. What of him? Logan admits there is nothing here for him anymore. He says goodbye to Mariko, then gives Shiro the honor sword and suggests he take clan leadership.
Very soon, a sulking Kitty Pryde answers the door at Xavier’s to find Wolverine, who tells her he is home.